Monday, December 31, 2012

A trip to Panama

The end of the year is approaching, an occasion to sit down and reflect on the year 2012. It has been a very full year with plenty of interesting activities and nice moments.

I spent most of my time working in Ethiopia. In 2012, I contributed to a farm household survey that surveyed 600 farmers in the Blue Nile, implemented 4 focus group discussions with farmers, contributed to the development of two spatial targeting tool boxes making sure that they would be up-taken by stakeholders. I developed games for engaging people with very different backgrounds and developed and implemented many trainings. I really enjoyed doing all these activities that made me meet many interesting people. I also could go to conferences, visited Mauritius and trainings on open-source GIS. Finally i also went back to Switzerland and the Netherlands for some leave.

On the private side, it has been the year where I finally somehow managed to find my way in Ethiopia. I finally made some Ethiopian friends with whom I could enjoy the Teddy Afro concert and deepen myself into Ethiopian politics. Also my birthday party at the Dashen beer brewery was an unforgettable moment.

In 2012, i also made the bitter discovery that i am not a superwoman, that my health, my energy and my capacity to cope with water shortage, daily harassment, food shortage or African (un-)logics are limited. The tiredness and wish to be closer to my family for a while pushed me to leave my Ethiopia, get a good rest for a while and later on look for a new adventure, that I hope will bring me back somehow to agricultural research and how it can contribute to development.

Like the tiger and the bear (in the video), i took off with my tigerduck, in search of Panama, the paradise that smells like banana, looking forward to what this trip and search will teach me and where my next destination will be.

I would like to take this occasion to thank Charlotte, Nigeru, the "Gondar" club, and more particularly Amare and Kibru, Linda, all my colleagues, my campus neighbors, my employees, people from partner organizations, for their support and sharing some good time. Somehow, I will end up missing my Ethiopian life with you!

Finally, I would like to thank you, as a reader of my blog. The year 2012 has been a year where more and more people started reading this blog on a regular base. I hope I will be able to keep up with the expectations and share with you ideas and developments from rural areas around the world.

I wish you a new year full of new and interesting adventures!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hunger for profit?

Food prices have been increasing over the last years. Why? and what does it imply for developing countries? Do the farmers benefit?I came across this interesting short movie, made available by the campaign why poverty? that answers some of these questions.

The claim in this movie is that food prices are high because of the food shortage. Because of the shortage, one can expect rising prices and it becomes interesting to speculate on food. In the developing world where about 60-80% of the income is spend on food, high food prices are pretty bad for the urban population that needs to buy food , but should be pretty good for crop farmers who can get more money for their production (not pastoralist see This movie shows with the example from Kenya that this is not the case. It is just the middle man who brings food to the market who will make more money. Similar patterns can be found in Ethiopia, check
Following the argumentation of this movie, high food prices are just bad for producers and consumers and a relatively simple solution (compared to implementing complex and possibly market distorting regulations) would be to produce more. And in many region of Africa, one could improve on productivity with relatively low inputs. But increasing productivity is a matter to bring the right technology to the right location and the right people as well as addressing impacts of climate change. No wonder that today, many new research projects focus on sustainable intensification options and climate change adaptation for Africa. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

An overview of informal institutions in Ethiopia

Last spring, an Ethiopian intern joined my team to do some desktop research about informal institutions in Ethiopia. Indeed i had the feeling that we do not know enough about the economic role of these institutions in farmers decision making ( Kiros looked at seven informal institutions in Ethiopia, namely Iddir, Mahber, Eqqub, Debo/Wenfel/Jigie/oxen sharing/labor sharing, Gadaa system, Elder’s group and Women’s association and tried to understand their role from an institutional economics perspective. Six dimensions of possible issues that can hamper transactions were identified. Each of the seven institution was analyzed along the axes of these six dimensions, namely  risk coping, access to credit, labor and animal power exchange, natural resource management, conflict resolution and information sharing.

Kiros came to the conclusion that there are mainly three categories of informal institutions in Ethiopia :
  • risk reduction institutions (Iddr, Mehaber, women's associations)
  • market failure institutions (Eqqub, labor and animal power exchange)
  • conflict resolution (Gada, elder's group)

you can find Kiros report under :

Friday, November 23, 2012

Open source GIS : it it really what stakeholders in the developing world want?

In Ethiopia, where rainwater management is often still promoted as "blanket approaches" (these are approaches that do not take the specific context into account), producing suitability or feasibility maps that show where the biophysical and socioeconomic criteria for successful adoption are met is essential. Most policy-maker, researchers and extension services have little access to GIS technology and lack in GIS knowledge. For this reason Nile Basin Development Challenge program (the project i am working on) is working on an open source GIS tool that allows to do the suitability mapping without any prior GIS knowledge.
The participants in Addis
The last two weeks, i have been giving a training on the beta version this GIS tool in Addis and Gondar. In addition of simple manipulations, we also taught participants how to feed their own maps. The maps need to be in a GIS software, we offered the possibility to do this preliminary work in ArcGIS (the most common commercial GIS software, which license costs about 1400 USD per year) and Grass, an open source solution. The trainings were based on competence based training approach, letting participants discover the tool and GIS software on their own. The trainings went well, participants seemed to enjoy the training, and at the end almost everyone understood the stories behind geographical coordinate systems (taking the earth as a ball) and the projected coordinate systems (for which the world is "made flat").

The participants in Gondar
 Representing an official organization funded by the world bank, I cannot provide pirated software. So each participant who wanted to use ArcGIS had to request a personal trial license from ESRI (the company providing ArcGIS). It is a pretty cumbersome process, which needs internet. (As in Ethiopia most organisation work with static IP,  each laptop had to be programmed separately). Despite of this whole hassle all participants in the Addis chose to use ArcGIS, and only 2 advanced GIS user in Gondar took up the challenge to test Grass. Most of the evaluation were very positive about the training, but the major complaint was that we did not teach sufficiently ArcGIS.

the computer room in Gondar where every laptop has to be configured manually to access internet

 (static IP)

I am wondering why everyone wants to learn so much about ArcGIS, and why there is so little interest among my partners and stakeholders for open-source solutions. Is this the widely spread availability of pirated software? Is it the fear to not being mainstream? is it the fear to not get support when things don't work? or is it the ease and user-friendliness of ArcGIS that allows you to make tools even when you don't understand what your are doing?

For whatever reason, open-source software still has a lot of promotion work to do in the developing world... the NBDC open-source tool is now in revision, some new features will be added and some bugs removed. When it will be finished, we will promote it broadly and see if at least this tool can be used by our stakeholders. The tool will also make available a whole bunch of geographical layer, that otherwise are difficult to access in a country with weak internet access. Maybe this could be a good reason for stakeholders to overcome their fears and doubts about open-source...
The most admired participant : the duck that participated in 2 trainings : "if you don't train GIS you will be like the duck, you have a certificate but can't map anything :-)

A story to follow up...
the link to the beta version of the tool can be found under material and output : 

and find here the link to the official NBDC blog about this training : 

Monday, November 19, 2012

A sense of place, or why geography matters even more in a digital world

Last month the Economist made a special report on the role of geography in a digital world. It claims that geography has never been as important as now with the internet and shows the new opportunities of internet that make use of location.
It is an amazing overview about what is already possible today, and how both the developed and developing world will change with new applications of geography in the digital world.

"This simultaneously more localised and more globalised world will be more complicated than the world of old. Different rules will continue to apply to different countries’ bits of cyberspace. Gartner’s Mr Prentice thinks that three basic forces will shape the mobile internet, the transport of data across it and the content available on it: politicians’ demand for control; (most) people’s desire for freedom; and companies’ pursuit of profit. It is possible to imagine scenarios in which one of these forces comes out on top; for instance, a “Big Brother” state that keeps a close eye on the internet and determines who can do what on it. But it is more likely, says Mr Prentice, that different combinations of the three forces will prevail in different places."

Get convinced yourself and have a closer look at the Economist special report on location and technology :

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Land grabbing or development?

With increasing climate variability, nomadic pastoralists in arid and semi-arid agro-ecologies get more difficult time. The lack of fodder and water is threatening their herds. Very little is known about what the right way to support these pastoralists and increase their resilience: should we improve their livestock management, developing smart early warning information systems about availability of water and fodder (with smartphone applications for example)  and make sure that nothing hampers their mobility (like foreign direct investors)? or should we try to settle these nomadic people and teach them how to grow crops in water stressed area? 
Up until today there is no answer to this question : both the livestock and crop pathways have not yet been studied also because of the lack of evidence on the ground. The Ethiopian government, despite of the uncertainty, is in favor of the settlement (it is said that the major reason for settling is control over the region rather than livelihood improvement). Therefore land has been given to an Israeli company to start a pilot project to produce crops in arid areas with ground water (like in Israel). The company has started to build up goodwill of the communities by drilling wells that serves for the community livestock. Also part of the production is supplied to the pastoralists. Jobs are created
Somehow it looks like a great initiative from which we will be able learn what works and what doesn't. We will also be able to discover how pastoralists will adapt their livelihoods. Most probably part of the family will settle and work for the commercial farms get access to cash and food the other part of the family might continuing nomadic life. Combining the livestock and crop might increase the resilience of the pastoralists households, also insuring access to water and food during the droughts. 
Some open questions remain : is there a contract that obliges the commercial farmers to provide food to the community? or do they have the option to switch to export products only leaving the locals hungry? what is the impact the israeli project on mobility of livestock? How much groundwater is available, on how does the government insure that there is no overuse of the groundwater?
Somehow my intuitions tells me that this model can improve resilience and livelihoods of pastoralists, only if few commercial farm settle, allowing a cohabitation between nomadic and settled live. An upcoming research question will also be : what is this thresholds allowing for cohabitation of the two lifestyles? how does the contract with the commercial farmers need to look like?
The israeli pilot project is not just a pilot for the Ethiopian government, but also for livestock scientists. It will definitely challenge our concepts and allow us to learn. A story to follow up. 

Find here the article published last week in the English reporter about the Israeli pilot project : 

Some say Somali and Afar regions are deserts, Israelis dub it a “bread basket”

By Yonas Abiye

Looking at a wide portion of Somali or Afar regions, one might be tempted to call it as an unproductive or non-loam soil because of the hottest temperature and the acacia trees as well as thorny prosopis juliflora (derogatorily otherwise known as Woyane tree).
Meanwhile, in the eye of anyone from Israel, this is a funny view. For them, Somali or Afar areas are like a virgin and fertile land.
For Ethiopian pastoralists, whose livelihood depends on animal husbandry, agriculture had almost ‘zero position’. For them livestock are everything. Most of them have a belief that there is no life without livestock.

Though the Ethiopian government, as a national development strategy, had attempted to introduce the agriculture system to pastoralist areas, most of them seem hardly manageable to accept agriculture as an alternative means to their livelihood. Their life is always mobile.

Within these prevailing facts and challenges an Israel company, Agropeace, came to Ethiopia two years ago to engage in the country’s large-scale agriculture mainly focusing in the mass production of biofuel plants and floricultures as well as crops, unlike most local as well as oversees investors who do not dare to engage in such ventures in the region. This is obviously seem that many of the investors, if not all, prefer putting their money near fertile lands of the country around Addis Ababa and in the nearest and relatively modest towns.

Meanwhile, Agropeace looks determined to grow more in one of the country’s hottest and remote areas of Somali region such as Shinile and Gad districts.

In fact, for a longtime, ploughing lands or having agriculture practice has been an unusual, or unpreferable business in Shinile and Gad localities which are not very far from the town of Dire Dawa.

Having secured nearly 2,000 hectares from the Somali region four years ago, Agropeace launched its first pilot project by producing maize and caster seeds. Since such kind of agri-business has not been common in the pastoralist's areas, for Agropeace it was a challenging mission to gain the support of the local residents.

According to the existing tradition of most pastoralists, every plot of land belongs to their communal property where they feed their cattle no matter the title deed given to them as is common in other parts of Ethiopia. As a result, the Israel company had not received positive welcome from the resident pastoralist communities from Shinile as well as Gad.

So, the company had to work hard to get the goodwill of the pastoralists. Eventually since water shortage is the serious problem of the, Agropeace first built around six wells and delivered water to the community for their livelihood and to their livestock. Next, in its first year the company produced tomato, green pepper and maize and distributed it to the community. This was also coupled by teaching them a new trend of agricultural production on how to produce it and create employment opportunities.

Recently, the company organized a two-days field trip where its major shareholders from the US and the UK, along with the Israeli Ambassador to Ethiopia, as well as local officials visited the project sites in Shinile and Gad.

Briefing on the progress of the project, the founder of the company, Zir Brosh, told visitors that “the project is very promising. So far, from this pilot project, we have learnt that the area is very fertile and suitable for castor, any crops and vegetables so that we are able to grow year round. “

Yohash Zohar, the general manager of Agropeace Ethiopia, said that despite some challenges the company faces as an initial development cost the company is profitable in a short period of time.

“This project, I believe, will be a benchmark for Ethiopia and will attract many other foreign investors,” he told The Reporter.

“We truly believe that the drier regions of Ethiopia such as Somali and Afar regions can actually be the bread-basket of Ethiopia,” he said, adding that with the right development and usage of underground water they (Afar and Somali regions) can produce more cash crops probably for all other parts of Ethiopia together.

He also explained that the advantage of investing in the Somali region is also advantageous, logistically citing its proximity to the Port of Djibouti.
“It makes a lot of sense to invest in such areas,” Zohar said.

According to the general manager, the company is investing a total amount of 20 million dollars for its 2000 hectare project, out of which 70 percent of the investment loan is acquired from Development Bank of Ethiopia (DBE) while the rest is partly financed from Agropeace, development partners as well as from the income generated from the project itself.

He told The Reporter that the company aims to start exporting in 2013 for the first time, starting with some 2000 tons of castor seed that is estimated to be roughly worth about 2.5 million dollars.

So far, over 350 hectares of land has been cleared for castor production.

“In Israel we have a lot of experiences in developing deserts and turn it into productive agricultural farm. Once you have enough water and use it with kid gloves, it will be advantageous because being very dry is an advantage. When you have water for irrigation, you can absolutely control how much water you can use for your farm.”
For the company, infrastructure development is a bottleneck challenge that has already forced it to incur core investment costs.

Anteneh Gelaye, chief operation manager of the project, explained that such a kind of investment is the first project in the area.

Anteneh told The Reporter that at that demonstration site, Agropeace has carried out pilot project and has seen satisfactory results particularly in castor seed, soya bean, groundnut as well as maize.

“Though this areas is semi-desert, for example, last year using Israeli technology we grew an American maize seed. And we have harvested about 80 quintals from a hectare while is 30 quintals in normal case.”

The Israeli Ambassador to Ethiopia, Belaynesh Zevadia, hailed the company’s project saying, “I’m happy about this promising achievement. They did a great job.”

She also told the company, “I hope in a couple of years, you would reap good production.

“There is a jewish saying that goes “If you save one life, you will save the world”, Belaynesh said after she saw the water wells the company provided for the local residents “I was born in Gondar and grew up in Addis Ababa before leaving for Israel when I was 17. I didn’t know we have such kind of place. Now I’m proud of being Jewish. I’m proud of Ethiopia. Please keep saving more lives.”

Similarly, the vice president of development DBE, Tadesse Oge’e, praised the company for its project.

“Your commitment to invest in such kind of area is very fantastic while most investors prefer to invest in Addis Ababa and surrounding areas. We are ready to support this project and continue to support it.

Issayas Kebede, from Ministry of Agriculture, on his part said, “This is the kind of development that Ethiopia seeks. When you lose, we lose, when your gain we gain.
For a long time the area was known as one of the country’s smuggling corridor and black market zones.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Water and Land Ressource Center is about to launch a new database for Ethiopia

The Water and Land Resource Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is a 1 year old independent institute affiliated to Addis Ababa University, in close collaboration with the ministry of agriculture and the ministry of water and energy. The Resource Centre is supported  by the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC), capitalizing on the 30 years of hydro-sedimentology data collected in 7 smaller watersheds in Ethiopia (one in Eritrea) by Professor Hans Hurni and colleagues from the university of Bern, Switzerland.  

Prof. Hans Hurni (University of Bern, Switzerland) and Dr. Gete Zeleke, director of the Resource Center

The objectives of the center are much broader than just data management. It has four components:
1. Establishing an open access and modern resource database and information management system.
2. Establishing learning watersheds to demonstrate  sustainable water and land  management by using combined efforts of research and development actions.
3. A collection of hydro-sedimentology and land management data observed in observatories and learning watersheds.
4. Improved capacities at all levels involved in water and land management.

In this context of database and information system management, the center is about to launch a new database on land and water management, called WALRIS (Water and Land Resources Information System) . It is a web based database which initially will allow to consult, visualize and use the 30 years of data generated by Center for Development and Environment of University of Bern in collaboration with the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and Agriculture Research Institutes at different levels. It is also planning to  gradually make non-commercial and openly available spatial and non-spatial data from the ministry of agriculture, the ministry of water and energy and from other research and academic institutes available. 

The following movie shows how the geo-database will work.  

The center  has been organizing  itself  since mid-2011  as part of the phase one of the project. A stakeholder meeting took place this week to plan phase II. In this phase, the CGIAR has been recognized as a key partner to link up with. IWMI is already in discussion to discover where the synergies are, both in data collection and sharing. There is definitely scope for other CGIAR centers to join the effort on land and water management and make use of the web-based GIS platform to make our data better accessible to others. 

You can find more information about the center under :
and feel free to contact Dr. Gete Zeleke for discussing potential collaborations with the CGIAR :

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Teddy Afro a hero? : a reflection on freedom of speech and the future of Ethiopia

Recently two major events have triggered me to have a closer look at broader issues than rural areas in Ethiopia and start off the concept of wildcard in my blog, these are blog posts with opinion pieces that do not relate to rural areas.
Firstly, i lost an Ethiopian friend who felt offended because of a facebook post, in which i was questioning the source of the money for all the new huge flat screens in Addis Ababa airport (where there is no money for toilet paper or soap or decent wages) showing only the defunct minister president Meles and praising him. I still don't understand what is offending when I ask about where the money comes from, but i was told to keep freedom of speech for my own people, and not express my opinion in Ethiopia (sorry, this is just a trigger to look more closely at it and report about it). The second event is Teddy Afro's concert this week end, in which he clearly called upon people to not shut up! A pretty amazing event, i hope to put into perspective in this post.
Teddy Afro @Ghion
Still today, months after the funeral, Meles pictures are everywhere in Addis praising a great visionary man. To European eyes this Meles cult is just strange and difficult to understand. There is no doubt, MP Meles has been an amazing man who has done a great job in fighting poverty, in sustaining economic growth, getting foreign aid or in implementing food safety net ( Despite of these positive aspects, i think one should not look away, many webpages are blocked in Ethiopia (i could not access Al Jazeera website anymore for at least a month when Meles passed away), it is said that dissidents are in prison for nothing, some people have died in very suspicious car accidents... Also international news (BBC, Aljazeera, the Economist) gave very good retrospective on who Meles was, his great achievements and his shadow sides (an example is
As Meles passed away, there was a window of opportunity for change, but nothing really changed, no later than yesterday i read in the local news paper that the parliament has refused among others to take freedom of speech, the future of dissents on to the agenda (The Capital). Today's Ethiopia, despite of the recent MP change, is felt by many to be ruled by a elitist minority ethnic group leaving the majority out, and a country in which one is not allowed to express one's opinion. (Interestingly, the new MP Haile Sesalegn said in an interview with the Reporter that there is no reason to be afraid to speak up in Ethiopia, it is all in people's minds : so let's see how long my blog will be accessible from Ethiopia).
Teddy Afro @Ghion

But the time has come for a change, rather than look back and cry for a man that did good and bad, it is time to look forward. Ethiopia is a country full of potentials. It is the water tower of Africa, it can produce energy, it has fertile soils which could feed the world if water was well managed. Rather than importing manufactured goods, Ethiopia could enhance small manufacturing enterprises, moving slowly it mainly agricultural population into more small industries, developing the economy even further. There are plenty of young people looking for new opportunities.
the crowd at Ghion
Also Ethiopia has inherited an amazing culture and traditions. Building a future for this country means to understand the past (unpolished) history to keep and cherish its fundamental value. But by no means this implies being stuck in the past, as it sometimes seems when one crosses this country. One needs to be able to do the subtle steps between modernity and tradition. More freedom is needed to give creative space to people to discover how modernity can be combined with these traditional values. What Ethiopia needs is not a revolution but an aware society that can love its traditions but is not afraid of speaking up, of re-adjusting the traditions to emerging challenges, of pointing at what could be improved : a society seeking for new ways on how to go further as a united country in which all ethnic groups deserve equal respect and equal rights. This country needs people with the feeling of owning their own future and fate. Only a freer Ethiopia will allow to unlock the potentials that this country and its individual have.

This week end, Teddy Afro, the most popular Ethiopian singer gave an open air concert at Ghion hotel, in Addis Ababa with the title "the road to love". The whole concert was about love, but not only about love between a man and a woman, but also about his love for Ethiopia. He is a proud christian orthodox, but calls upon unity between Christians and Muslim and between ethnic groups. "We have gone through so many things together, but now i am afraid of what i see...". He also worries about the current economic situations and Ethiopia's dependency on aid "our soils can be so green, so why are we hungry?". He is calling for a change "We should not re-write history we should make history".
My movies from Teddy's concert, with some translations (made by my friends)

Teddy has been in prison some years ago officially for having created a car accident. But it is said that the real reason was his song "ah Yastesereyal" in which he says "after a fight of 17 years (the Derg regime), a new king came (Meles), but nothing has changed". It is also said that officials have forbidden him to sing this song in public. Saturday night, the most incredible thing happened : after 5 years of silence, Teddy stood in the middle of the stage in Addis Ababa and sung this song. The crowd literally went wild, and all my Ethiopian friends had this incredible light of hope in their eyes. Is it a hint to show us that despite of the recent events, nothing has changed in Ethiopia? Or is it just the announcement that a new era for Ethiopia is starting?

For me, like for many of my Ethiopian friends, Teddy is just a hero. He manages to mobilize 15000 people at Ghion hotel (without promising any benefits or using any kind of social pressure),  and millions of others who could not afford the ticket or the trip to Addis Ababa and spread his message of love, pride, unity, hope and fears for a better Ethiopia in a complex and changing society. It reminds me a bit of the Russian rock groups like Kino or DDT, whose song have shaped the spirit of young people during the perostroika time and called upon the young people to take their fate unto their own hands. Furthermore, Teddy manages this incredibly subtle steps back  and forward between modernity and tradition, being a proud "African from the shores of the Nile" and not closing eyes on what could be better in his country. He took his freedom to sing a very controversial song, with this strong message to all of us to not look away to not shut up but move on towards a united and freer future. In Ethiopia, time has come to "create history rather than re-writing it".

Monday, October 15, 2012

the magics of the washing machine

This is one of my favorite TED talks... and it fits pretty well on a Monday morning after having spent part of my week-end hand washing. (I am so grateful to have a cleaning lady that does the additional wash for me today).

In rural areas in developing countries, washing cloth takes a tremendous amount of time. Women need to carry water home for washing or carry all the wash to the water point. It is laborious work, which is also pretty bad for the back. As Hans Rosling mentions, women emancipation can only come if they get more time by doing household work more efficiently. He also mentions that this efficiency gain that all women around the world wish to have will create more pressure on the environment.

Some months ago i found this article about a pedal powered washing machine that could have similar effects described in Hans Rosling's TED talk, namely giving women more freedom and time for the children, without using more electricity, without additional pressure on the environment!

Convince yourself! 

It is definitely a technology worth to look at!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Art to integrate communities and their landscape?

Lately, I have been collecting qualitative data from rural communities in Ethiopia. I have discovered that participatory mapping is an interesting way to bring the communities, scientists and local government together to discuss issues and strengthen to the relationship between the different stakeholder to their landscape ( During my holidays in Switzerland I came across a not such a new concept, the landscape illumination projects by the Swiss artist Ueli Studer (  and realized that art can catalyze in the developed world the same way the participatory mapping does in the developing world.
Ueli Studer is a Swiss artist who illuminates interesting human made or natural landscape structures during one night, mostly with candle light. 
Viniterra, illumination project on the Biel Lake Switzerland (picture taken from
His newest project is planned in Davos, Switzerland and I had a chance to follow him in his preliminary steps : identifying the landscape structures that are worth pointing out and that through illumination give a new perspective on the landscape of the spectator. 
Tot Alp in Davos : a  landscape shaped by tourism
A whole team, constituted of Ueli himself, my father, a geologist and a film maker who documents the “making of“ took off to the “Tot Alp”in Davos to study the geological structure of an Alp on which nothing grows due to the mineral concentration in the soil. 

The area is heavily used for tourism : it is reachable by cabins and half of the area has been flattened for the skiing routes and an artificial lake has been created as a water reservoir to create artificial snow. 
The artificial lake as water reservoir for artificial snow
Also different geological layer come together bringing white, black, red and green stones together, giving the feeling that one has just landed on Mars. The whole day was about understanding how the geological structures have emerged and which are worth illuminating. If the project takes place, it will involve the local government, the transport company that runs the different cabins in the area, the alpine club and the trekking guides of the area (locals) that would fix and light the candle, the tourism office that can promote an event and show the film of it to tourists. Finally, if possible the local population should be able to see the illumination from the valley bottom.
The geologist and the artist sitting in front of a clear geological cut
After this day, it is very unclear if the project will take place at the Tot Alp, mainly because no landscape structures that would show new insight could be identified, but also because it would be difficult to see the illumination from the valley. But with or without illumination, or with illumination on another location, a process to bring communities, stakeholders and scientists together around their landscape has started. 
Discussing the landscape
All previous illumination projects from Ueli such as Viniterra 1 and 2 ( have brought stakeholders, communities, farmers, scientists, tourism office and government together. Indeed, setting the candle often requires the authorization of the land owner, which is usually a farmer and the government. Also many volunteers, usually the local population meets up to light the candles. Also, a broader public can see from far away or even walk through the illuminated landscape, admire the landscape in a new perspective and learn about its structures. The discussions linked to the illumination of the landscape brings people together that otherwise would have not met and therefore shape the network and resilience within these landscapes.